Ebola virus Q&A with Dr. Daniel Havlichek
In American culture, the Ebola virus was exotic in the truest sense of the word. It was unknown, distant, and something of a surreal stereotype of the African continent. And until a few weeks ago, regarded by many as not our problem. While a majority of Americans trust the various medical agencies, there remains uncertainty surrounding the dangers of the virus itself and what it means for their communities. To help remove some of that uncertainty surrounding what this means for Michigan, I reached out to veteran researcher of infectious diseases, Dr. Daniel Havlichek.
Adrian: What might you say to someone in Michigan who is concerned about the Ebola virus and how it could affect their family?
Dr. Havlichek: People who acquire Ebola must have contact with someone who has Ebola or have contact with soiled materials from that person. Since there are very few cases of Ebola in the US, and since travel from countries experiencing the outbreak is monitored, the risk is very low that someone will acquire Ebola in the United States.
A: According to recent polling from Gallup, 37% of the American people do not feel confident in the Federal government to handle the public health risk posed by Ebola. Do you think Michigan is prepared?
H: Michigan hospitals, clinics, and public health authorities have been working hard for many weeks to be fully prepared to handle this issue. A lot has happened in a short amount of time and many policies and procedures have been reviewed and modified. Thousands of public health, hospital and clinic employees are being educated about new procedures and isolation protocols.
A: Do you feel like the national media is accurately representing science’s current best understanding of Ebola?
H: I believe the vast majority of the media have been reporting the outbreak fairly (although I don’t follow the media closely).
A: I see that prevention of infectious diseases is one of your academic interests. Can you tell me a little bit about your work toward that end as a scientist and how that might translate to the general public?
H: I have worked in vaccine trials. Hopefully a vaccine for Ebola can be produced soon.
A: A bit closer to home, we’ve seen a quick rise of Enterovirus D68 cases in Michigan. What should the people of Michigan know about this situation?
H: This is primarily a respiratory infection that can cause severe disease in children with underlying lung problems. Prudence would suggest limiting contact between children with underlying lung problems and anyone with respiratory infections.
Dr. Daniel Havlichek Jr. is a Professor of Medicine and Microbiology at Michigan State University. He is also Chief of the Division of Infectious Disease and was Chairperson of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) Training Program Director’s Committee from 2010-2013.